Friday, June 20, 2008

Dollar Grills and Martinis, Farringdon

I am getting a bit bored of writing about poor service, but it is so very integral to a good restaurant experience or, should I say, a poor one.

That's not to say Dollar Grills and Martinis was a poor restaurant experience, it just wasn't a great one and it could be.  I booked a week in advance for a table for two at 7.30pm.  We arrived bang on time and were very glad we had reserved because it was heaving, full on packed to bursting with several large tables of, I think, office parties.  There were four people in front of us, queueing to speak to the guy on the front desk who was doing his best to accommodate people.  He was very good at his job, polite and apologetic about the wait and the confusion: there had been a table of 13 arrive that they had lost the booking for and he had had to rearrange lots of tables to fit them in.  Therefore, we now had two options - a truly terrible table for two which was actually a table from outside squashed in a corner at the top of the stairs that lead to the toilets or a large round table for four.  Neither were particularly ideal for a romantic meal but we chose the larger and sat next to each other, avoiding the side of the table next to the open view kitchen, where waiters frantically grabbed (and dropped) orders.  

As he hands us our menus he explains that as the very large party has just ordered there may be a wait for our food, for which he is very sorry in advance.  Ok, well we've been warned.  We choose from the menu straight away, but noone comes to take our order for ages... eventually we grab a waitress and begin with a cocktail.  They were good: a beautiful bling bling with a huge juicy blackberry perched on the side and a long , sweet lemon collins.  Our starters arrive at 8.15, 45 minutes after we arrive, but again they are very good.  My boyfriend's pan fried scallops are gorgeous: soft, fresh and beautifully complemented by a carrot and cardemon sauce.  Similarly my chicken liver and foie gras parfait is smooth and slightly sweet, served on a fairly small slice of brioche (was it a bit stale? perhaps...) with, for once, a leafy side salad and fig chutney that actually complement the dish.  I would have liked another drink at this point.  No, revise that - I would like to have been offered another drink at this point.  God knows there were staff around - waiters constantly moved my chair in, or worse, pushed behind it to serve the large table.  I spent the whole evening shuffling back and forth on my chair (which incidentally had once had arms but didn't any longer, just two ripped holes with sponge showing through) and breathing in.  I accosted a waiter for a glass of house white.

It's not too much longer before main dishes arrive - both of us have chosen burgers, mine with jack cheese and James's a 'million dollar burger' with bacon, cheese and cashew nut sauce.  He deliberately asked that the avocado and relish and be left off, oddly the larger burgers only come with a myriad of extras.  They are served on a wooden board with a steak knife speared through them.  Mine was so firmly wedged through the food and into the board that removing it was difficult and really quite dangerous.  But anyway, although one burger which was requested well done came thoroughly pink in the middle, they were tasty and fresh and filling.  I must confess though there wasn't a lot of cheese on mine and James couldn't taste the cashow nut sauce (which I suspect is a good thing).  The fries were good - nice and skinny, and it was all served with a smile and sauces without having to ask.  

The atmosphere in Dollar Grills is good - very friendly, buzzy and fun but the decor has seen better days.  It's shabby chic that has become just shabby in parts.  Although still looking very trendy, some elements (the toilets would be a good example) desperately need sprucing up.  My boyfriend's chair had one arm remaining, mine wobbled.  You get the picture, comforts could be improved.  I noticed all these things whilst waiting for someone to offer me a pudding.  Why does this seem so hard in so many restaurants?  We managed to stop another member of staff and request a menu and then miraculously, order a NY chocolate cheesecake to share.  It was divine, just a fantastic cheesecake.  I am glad we shared - it was rich but oh so good.

Needless to say there was another fifteen minute period in which we attempted to give someone our hard earned money.  Dollar Grills accepts Taste London and the discount (in this case 2 for 1) was applied without a fuss.  The value was good with the card but I think at full price I would expect a lot more.  I must point out though that all four staff that served us throughout the evening were very friendly.

Three courses, a glass of wine and a cocktail (without taste London discount): £42 per head

Value: 6/10

Service: 6/10

Atmosphere: 7/10

Food: 7/10

SCORE: 26/40

Dollar Grills and Martinis, 2 Exmouth Market, London, EC1R 4PX.  Tel: 020 72780077.

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